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other hearts, and put other hands in motion. She is not so dependent on the teacher, that she cannot leave him and raise up other instruments to do her work. She has done so already, in numerous instances; and it is chiefly on her power to do so, that we must rely for a sufficient number of christian ministers to supply the Pagan world.
Art. III.-Hinton's Active CHRISTIAN.
The Active Christian: a series of Lectures. By Joun Howard Hintos. First
American Edition. Philadelphia, 1833.
This work, which we intended to notice somewhat earlier, is a small volume of 235 pages. The author has been already made known to our readers, by an examination of bis. “ Consistency of Reason and Revelation," in our last number. The work besore us, when considered with reference to its author's object in writing and publishing it, is a timely and a valuable production. Its design, as the title indicates, is to lead christians to be more active and more efficient laborers in the great work of saving souls. To this one end the whole force of the author's mind, while preparing these Lectures, seems to have been directed; and they speak favorably for the state of religion in the congregation to which they were addressed, and for whose benefit they were primarily intended. The subjoined synopsis of the contents of this volume, will give our readers, at a single glance, an idea of the spirit and character of the publication. It comprises twelve Lectures, of about twenty pages each; the subjects of the several Lectures being denoted by the following titles and texts of scripture.
1. The christian surveying the field of labor : text, “ Lord what wilt thou have me to do ?" 2. The christian estimating his resources : text, “ Bearing precious seed.” 3. Cultivating fitness for labor: text, “ Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” 4. Preparing for action: text, “ Him that girdeth on the harness.” 5. Habitual action : text, “ Lights in the world.” 6. Specific action: text, “ I made haste, and delayed not.” 7. Treatment of various cases : text, “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, etc.” 8. Direct exercises after labor: text, “ O Lord, I beseech thee send now prosperity.” 9. Indirect exercises after labor: text, “ They made me keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept." 10. Success expected: text, “ For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds.” 11. Success wanting : text, “ Who hath believed our report ?" 12. Success granted : text, “ Now
thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place.”
The style is unstudied, simple, and perspicuous. The tone of instruction, admonition and encouragement, which the writer holds, is of a bold and earnest character. He is evidently “honest in the sacred cause.” His aim in what he inculcates, is, to be useful to his readers ; and he goes right forward to his object with a direct and a fearless step, carrying his readers along with him, and causing them to feel no small sympathy with the workings of his own mind. Religion appears, in his hands, what it truly is, the master interest of the soul; and to bring lost sinners home to Christ, is felt to be, under his treatment of it, the grand, paramount, absorbing concern of the christian in the present world. To this great concern, every thing is to yield and become subservient, or else is to be laid aside as foreign to the primary object of our existence here. Such are the impressions, we think, with which the book before us will be read by every warm-hearted christian. And we augur favorably of the piety of British christians in the congregations around the metropolis, if such inculcations of truth and duty as are contained in this little volume, are in harmony with the prevailing taste and feelings on religious subjects. The passages which follow will show the author's style of thinking, and manner of expressing himself
, on several topics. They are taken without much selection, and are a fair specimen of the general strain of the work.
To a just knowledge of duty, you will of course be concerned to add a deep conviction of sin. The general necessity of this is obvious; since without it there can be no rational apprehension of danger, or of the need and value of salvation. Every thing desirable in the subsequent exercises of the mind, or in the ultimate formation of character, will bear a proportion to the depth and extent of this important process.
Without insisting further, however, on the general necessity of producing adequate conviction of sin, it may be more material to point out the course which such efforts should take. And here it is principally important, that you should effectually open to the person with whom you are conversing “ the plague of his own heart.” You may find it easy to adduce instances of outward sin; you may conceive it to be the most obvious and effectual manner of bringing home the charge of actual guilt, and you may be more particulary tempted to act on this principle in cases of gross profligacy, where immoralities constitute the grand aspect of character: but in all cases, if you do not entirely avoid this method, you should lay on it very little stress. Make no use of the sins of drunkenness, lying, profanity, sabbath-breaking, or any other outward sin, but as an occasion of tracing up these acknowledged wrongs to the source of evil within the breast. " If you do not exhibit VOL. V.
and establish the fact that the heart is evil, that the indulged passions and cherished purposes of the soul are wrong, you do nothing towards the production of any valuable effect. A man who does not know and acknowledge this, neither acknowledges nor knows his real criminality, and can never take his right stand before God. You should therefore be very particular in this respect; and press with earnestness and perseverance the instructions and illustrations by which this often strange, and always unwelcome truth, may be fully manifested to the understanding, and riveted on the conscience.
pp. 107, 108. To those of you who have made any attempts to convict a sinner of wickedness of heart, I need not say that it is a conclusion which a thousand efforts are made to avoid. Innumerable pretexts, excuses, and eva. sions are resorted to, in order to take off the edge of conviction, and to cover or extenuate what can no longer be denied. It is for you to observe and to follow all these shiftings, and to see that the object of your compassion shall have no cloke' for his sin. While a man contends that his heart is good, that he means well, that he wishes to be good, and would be so if he could, but that he cannot, or maintains any of the large class of fallacies akin to these, little or no progress is made in convincing him of sin. Whatever addition may have been made to his knowledge, no change is induced in the state of his heart; he retains all his pride, he cherishes every iniquity, he hastens to his ruin.However tedious or difficult it may be, therefore, to pursue the fugitive into successive and apparently endless subterfuges, and to fight battle after battle at successive points of defence, all the value you attach to his salvation urges you to persevere.
Leave him to be the victim of any one of these fallacies, and he is undone. pp. 109, 110.
In order to exhibit the Lord Jesus Christ to a sinner in his supreme and exclusive excellency, it is necessary to make strong and painful statements respecting the utter helplessness of his own condition. An awakened sinner finds his situation awful, and his feelings impel him, blindly no doubt, to do something for its amelioration. In this effort he does himself no good, while he entirely overlooks the all-sufficient Savior. Nothing can be more important, therefore, than the strongest and most direct statements that all such efforts are useless, and that no advance whatever is made towards acceptance with God by any amount, or by any continuance of them.
Such a statement as this falls, and not altogether unnaturally, like something harsh and incredible upon a sinner's ear. He is ready to say, perhaps, How hard is this ! God is displeased with me for having done wrong ; but he will not be pleased with me if I do right. Though I have been sinful in time past, I am now doing the very best I can, and surely I may expect a being so kind and merciful as God is to be satisfied with this, or if he is not, what can I do more?' Now this language, though containing much error, contains also some truth. God is kind and merciful; sufficiently so, not merely to welcome to his friendship sinners who do the best they can, but sinners who do not; a truth which it is of the highest importance to maintain unquestionable. But if 80, why may not a man who is striving to the utmost indulge hope of safety?
The only satisfactory method of meeting this question, is to exhibit with simplicity and clearness the truths relating to the moral government of God; to explain that God is not dealing with us simply as a father, but as a governor and a judge; and to show how a person who has to conduct affairs of government is required to impose a restraint on his private feelings, and to proceed undeviatingly in the administration of public justice. The fact of the Divine Being having instituted such a government being understood, and its justice and excellency perceived, a sinner will come to know where he stands, and to realize his condition as one of righteous helpless condemnation before the bar of God. He will be prepared to see that the soul that sinneth must die ; to admit that for a convicted criminal there is necessary a righteousness better than his own; and to appreciate the occasion, the necessity, the adaptation, and the excellency of the righteousness of Christ, together with the boundless love which has been exercised towards him in its provision.
pp. 111-113. It is the more material that prayer should be set in its true light, because by many persons it is regarded, not merely as that which will save them, but as the only thing which it is either requisite or possible for them to do in reference to their salvation. • If prayer does not answer the end,' they are ready to say, 'what can we do more?' And as it uniformly happens that prayer does not answer an end for which it is unscripturally and inappropriately used, it hence follows, that they conclude they have nothing else to do, and make themselves satisfied in a state of sin and condemnation; as though they would say, 'I have prayed to God, and that is every thing; and now, if I am not converted and saved, it is not my fault.” It is evident that, in such a state of mind, the attention of a sinner is withdrawn from all scriptural views of duty, and from every impulse to right action. The scripture speaks of humbling ourselves before God, of repentance, of godly sorrow, of submission to Christ's righteousness; all which are thus, most unjustly and injuriously, superseded by prayer, an exercise by the performance of which, in whatever manner, a sinner deems himself exonerated from all obligation to these scriptural and essential duties. Instead of being useful, the very exercise of prayer becomes in this method a tremendous mischief. I do not here need to be told of the fallen and helpless state of human nature, or of the thousand encouragements to prayer which are contained in the divine word; admitting these most readily, I must maintain also that it is a sinner's direct and immediate duty to turn to God, and submit to his Son, a duty from the obligation and necessity of which not a whole century of prayers could relieve him. Make it your business, dear brethren, to see that no person
instruction shall ruin himself by this melancholy delusion. pp. 132, 133.
But we have not taken up this work for the purpose of writing a critical review of it, or of entering into a discussion of any of the different and multifarious topics which it embraces.
We have at present another object in view, and one of higher interest. Whatever subordinate impressions may be produced on the mind of an American christian, who shall attentively peruse this book, one thing in regard to it, he can hardly fail to notice,-and the remark will hold good in relation to most of the religious publications of the day, and of the better sort too, which emanate as original productions, from the English press,
,—we mean, that in all which the writer says respecting the duty of christians to seek the conversion of sinners by all proper means in their power, using unwearied efforts for that end, with ceaseless importunity in prayer to God for his blessing, he never once refers to that state of general excitement on the subject of religion, in which great numbers of sinners are simultaneously converted to God, and which we in this country have agreed to call, somewhat technically perhaps, a revival of religion. This omission is not to be ascribed to any want of confidence on the part of Mr. Hinton, in American revivals, for his little work entitled Hints on Revivals, plainly shows that he understands their true nature. But his entire silence on this subject, in the work before us, treating expressly of the best means of bringing men under the saving influence of the gospel, and professedly discussing the whole subject (in its different bearings) of the christian's duty to be active in winning souls to Christ, clearly proves, that Mr. Hinton does not look to revivals with any strong confidence, as likely to prevail on English ground. He is perfectly aware that christians in England too generally regard our American revivals with incredulity and suspicion. Whether this fact is owing to certain peculiarities in the structure of society among them; or whether they have been misled by incorrect and distorted accounts of American revivals, transmitted to them by those who are unfriendly to revivals in this country; or whether they have a kind of morbid anxiety and dread respecting all excitement of popular feeling, considered merely as excitement, and without any reference to its cause and nature; or whether they are in principle opposed to strong, extended, and simultaneous feeling on the subject of religion itself, as tending, in their apprehension, only to temporary and useless results, if not to irregularities, and excesses of a positively injurious nature; we, at this distance, cannot pretend to determine. But the fact is unquestionable, notwithstanding some movements on the subject about two years since, among the dissenting clergy of the metropolis, that our English brethren, as a body, feel no desire to promote revivals among themselves, or even to examine much farther into the subject with reference to their own advantage.
Now this fact is very greatly to be deplored. The subject of revivals is, in its own nature, certainly an interesting subject to all who have the welfare of religion at heart, wherever their lot on earth may be cast. They may be Britons, or Americans; members of one religious communion, or another; still, if they have enlisted cordially un